Updated: Apr 11, 2021
So you go to bed at a decent hour, yet you wake up feeling exhausted. What a relatable, yet frustrating way to start the day! Even worse is the lack of motivation that continues to weigh you down throughout the day. In this article, we will discuss the science-backed reasons for waking up tired despite getting enough sleep and what you can do to combat it.
Before we discuss the behavioral and lifestyle factors that contribute to fatigue, it is important to note the according to the Mayo Clinic, fatigue can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition, such as anemia, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea. It is important that you first discuss your fatigue with your primary care provider so that any medical reasons can be eliminated. You can search for a primary care provider that accepts your insurance here or a low-cost/free clinic here and specifically for Miami-Fort Lauderdale-based residents here. Having a primary care provider is essential in achieving long-term health. They are the best resource for managing health concerns and can guide you towards living a better quality of life.
In an otherwise healthy individual, fatigue is often caused by certain lifestyle habits and routines. Here are a couple of reasons:
1. A sedentary lifestyle:
Even if you do not have a desk job, being indoors during the pandemic has contributed to less activity. Turns out that sitting around can be making you more tired! While we may believe that exercising will leave us even more tired, a study conducted by Puetz et al. demonstrated that exercise can actually increase energy levels by 20 percent and decrease fatigue by 65 percent. The researchers further noted that low-intensity exercise yields better results than moderate-intensity exercise. This means that a simple, socially distant stroll can do the trick!
According to a study by Dr. Nathalie Pross, dehydration affects attention and memory in school-age children and causes worsened mood in adults. Dehydrated adults from her study often complained of sleepiness and felt less clear-minded.
3. Unhealthy eating habits:
Not eating enough food and not eating healthy food both contribute to feelings of tiredness. If you do not meet your body’s energy needs, you enter a self-perpetuating cycle of undernutrition, as you may find yourself lacking the energy to prepare a meal. A 2020 study published in the scientific journal Nutrients demonstrated that high fat and high carbohydrate diets can lead to fatigue by altering insulin, leptin, and peptide YY levels. These are all digestion hormones that act on the brain to cause drowsiness.
Stress can almost be unavoidable, but studies have consistently shown that chronic stress leads to fatigue. Furthermore, stress disturbs the quality of sleep we get, making us sleepy throughout the day.
If you are consistently waking up tired, consider evaluating your daily routine and habits. Luckily, the factors mentioned above can be managed with simple lifestyle changes. Adding physical activity into your life sounds daunting, but it does not have to be! Some easy ways to add movement into your daily routine include walking around the house during phone calls or while waiting for the food to cook, running up and down the stairs every time you get up to use the bathroom, or standing up while folding your laundry. This may not sound much, but you will be surprised at how quickly these little activities can eliminate fatigue.
Make sure you are drinking plenty of water every day, especially after exercising. I like to set reminders on my phone and use this half-gallon water bottle. I enjoy the motivational timeline on the bottle that reminds me to stay hydrated.
Proper nutrition is key in managing fatigue. Diets can often be intimidating, so I recommend swapping processed foods for natural foods. Processed foods can typically be found in cans, boxes, or frozen food aisles at the grocery store. Instead of microwavable popcorn, try buying corn kernels and popping them on the stove yourself. Instead of dried fruits or fruit snacks, buy whole fruit. Whole fruit is not only unprocessed but also provides healthy fiber.
Lastly, there are many ways to manage stress. Listening to soothing music, taking deep breaths, engaging in a hobby, or simply being aware of what you cannot control can help lower stress levels.
Living a healthier life does not have to involve drastically changing your routine. Small changes add up to dramatically boost your mood and productivity.
Azzolino, D., Arosio, B., Marzetti, E., Calvani, R., & Cesari, M. (2020). Nutritional status as a
mediator of fatigue and its underlying mechanisms in older people. Nutrients,12(2), 444.
Fatigue causes. (2020, December 02). Retrieved March 18, 2021, from
Pross, N. (2017). Effects of dehydration on brain functioning: A life-span perspective. Annals of
Nutrition and Metabolism, 70(Suppl. 1), 30-36. doi:10.1159/000463060
Puetz, T. W., Flowers, S. S., & O’Connor, P. J. (2008). A randomized controlled trial of the effect of aerobic exercise training on feelings of energy and fatigue in sedentary young
adults with persistent fatigue. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 77(3), 167-174.